Auto makers will face more intense oversight from regulators in the wake of the Toyota Motor Co. recalls and the "tsunami" of publicity about them, says a senior executive of the company's Canadian sales unit.
"Just looking back on the last several weeks, you've seen different companies respond differently to what are really similar issues," Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota Canada Inc. said Thursday.
"I think there's going to be a demand for a systematic approach to reporting [of problems]by manufacturers through government," he told The Globe and Mail's editorial board.
He made his comments as part of what he described as a process designed to educate Canadians about two massive recalls of Toyota vehicles in recent months for two distinct issues that may have created confusion in the minds of the auto maker's customers.
Both recalls dealt with potential problems drivers might have in stopping their vehicles. In one instance, vehicles have been recalled because of the possibility of floor mats jamming accelerator pedals. The other case involves possibly sticky gas pedals that prevent a car from slowing down the way it should.
Toyota is trying to recover from a bruising few weeks on the public relations front, after it was accused of acting too slowly to deal with the problems. The recalls have become a political issue in the United States, and yesterday, Toyota president Akio Toyoda said he will testify at a congressional hearing next week. Mr. Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, said in a statement he looks "forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people."
The recalls affected about eight million vehicles globally. Further trouble arose for Toyota last week when it recalled its showcase environmental car, the Prius, because of some complaints about the way the cars brake.
Mr. Beatty noted that manufacturers can issue technical bulletins, which advise service representatives and customers of problems, customer satisfaction notices that don't relate to safety issues, or full recalls to address defects that can cause safety hazards.
"I think there's going to be a great deal more scrutiny on what falls into what category," he said. "I think in future there's going to be much less discretion."
Toyota Canada will begin running television ads that are similar to those its U.S. sister company ran on American networks during the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, he said.
"Recently, our company hasn't been living up to the standards that you've come to expect from us or that we expect from ourselves," an announcer said in that ad, which outlined steps "to restore your faith in our company."
Toyota Canada will also consider extending warranties and other actions, he said, but the first priority is to make sure customers get potentially sticky pedals fixed. That recall affected about 270,000 vehicles in Canada, including Toyota's two top sellers, the Corolla compact and the RAV4 crossover utility vehicle.
With files from Associated Press